3:10 To Yuma Movie Review
3:10 To Yuma Review
From the 1930’s up to the 1960’s, the American western was the most popular film genre in existence. Since then the genre itself has slipped into somewhat of a niche market, nestled quietly behind classic film noir and the ever-popular kung-fu genres. 3:10 To Yuma was written as a short story by Elmore Leonard and appeared in 1957 as a feature film directed by Delmar Daves. The film was immensely popular, especially in Cuba where it is reported that for a time all Americans and non-Hispanics were called “Yumas.” However, I can’t blame you if you’ve never heard of it. I never actually watched it either. But like most classic westerns you’ve never seen, this one influenced many films beyond it.
Now, over fifty years later, we have the remake of 3:10 To Yuma, and despite the fact that I never actually saw it’s predecessor, I’m just going to go ahead and say this is not only the definitive version, but one of the best westerns in recent memory. This time it’s directed by James Mangold, who also directed the highly acclaimed Walk The Line, and is beautifully photographed by cinematographer Phedon Papamichael. While the film itself is pieced together expertly, its execution was plagued with problems. The production of the film was initially burdened by a freak snowstorm that covered the “barren” town with two feet of snow, which had to be removed and covered with new dirt. Keep an eye out for the “no animals were harmed” notice as well, considering that on the first day of filming a rider and his horse collided with a camera carrying vehicle, badly injuring the rider and resulting in the horse being euthanized on set.
Problems in production aside, the result is a wonderful looking, authentic, and expertly crafted film. The story takes place in drought-plagued Arizona, where Dan Evans, a civil war veteran played by Christian Bale, struggles to make a living with his wife and two sons. Meanwhile, the infamous Ben Evans, played by Russell Crowe, arrives in town to rob his twenty-second Southern Railroad cart. The notorious outlaw is captured in town, but his gang of murderous thieves wishes to prove their allegiance by helping him out. So while the cool Ben relaxes in the presence of the law, the heat grows ever higher for hired escorts like Dan.
What the film succeeds in doing is making each character cool and dynamic. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale play their roles so keynote perfectly that the audience immediately understands the high-wire balancing act they play between their morals and their responsibilities as human beings. The performances are in and of themselves provoking and worth watching, but the film is so well written that we are provided with equal amounts of action, black humor and dramatic intensity to consistently keep us interested.
What the film captures is that lawless, yet morally torn spirit evident in the revisionist westerns or “anti-westerns” of the classic genre. It certainly provides echoes of classics such as High Noon, and of course The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, but more importantly the film is a classic western in it’s own right and may be a sign of the return of this great genre itself. See it.